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Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S DX Nikkor Lens Review

Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S DX Nikkor Lens Review - Gary Wolstenholme reviews the premium DX lens from Nikon, the Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S lens. Find out how it performs in our review.

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Category : Interchangeable Lenses
Product : Nikon AF-S DX 17-55mm f/2.8G
Price : £1,049
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Handling and features
Performance
Verdict
Specification
Nikon AF-S DX 17-55mm f/2.8G

This professional grade optic for Nikon DX format digital SLRs provides an angle of view equivalent to a 25.5-82.5mm lens on a 35mm camera. This lens also sports a constant f/2.8 aperture throughout the range, a silent wave focusing motor and costs around £1065.

Nikon AF-S DX 17-55mm f/2.8G

Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S DX Nikkor Handling and features

This weighty professional spec lens is built like a tank. It weighs 755g and sports a weather sealed construction. Even with the weight, it balances well on the Nikon D300 body used for testing, although it may feel a little too large and heavy to be used comfortably with entry level bodies.

Autofocus is powered by a silent wave motor and manual focus adjustments are possible at any time. Both zoom and focus rings are very smooth to operate, each being nicely damped, so they stay put and fine adjustments are easy to apply. Autofocus is very fast, and accurate in all but the darkest of conditions, where a focusing aid, such as the illuminator found on most flashguns will help.

Focusing is performed internally, so the 77mm filter thread does not rotate, which makes this lens ideal for use with polarisers and graduated filters. Closest focus is 36cm, which allows for frame filling close ups at 55mm.

Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S DX Nikkor Performance

At 17mm, sharpness levels in the centre of the frame are already excellent at f/2.8, although sharpness towards the edges of the frame is only fairly good. Stopping down improves sharpness across the frame and peak clarity is achieved between f/5.6 and f/8, where sharpness in the centre is outstanding, and excellent towards the edges of the frame.

At 28mm, some of the sharpness from the centre seems to be have traded for increased clarity towards the edges of the frame. Now, at f/2.8 sharpness in the centre remains excellent, but the quality towards the edges has increased to good levels. Just the same as at 17mm, peak clarity across the frame is achieved between f/5.6 and f/8 for this focal length.

Finally, at 55mm, sharpness in the centre has dropped off a little, but remains very good, and the quality towards the edges of the frame has dropped down to fairly good levels. Peak quality across the frame is realised at f/5.6 for this focal length.

Resolution at 17mm
Resolution at 17mm
  Resolution at 28mm
Resolution at 28mm
Resolution at 55mm
Resolution at 55mm
 

How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Nikon D300 using Imatest.

Chromatic aberrations are quite prevalent throughout the zoom range across all of the frame. At their worst fringing exceeds 1.5 pixels widths towards the edges of the frame with the lens stopped down beyond f/16. This level of fringing may become apparent in large prints, especially those with high contrast towards the edges of the frame.

Chromatic aberration at 17mm
Chromatic aberration at 17mm
  Chromatic aberration at 28mm
Chromatic aberration at 28mm
Chromatic aberration at 55mm
Chromatic aberration at 55mm
 

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Nikon D300 using Imatest.

Falloff of illumination towards the corners of the frame is reasonably well controlled for a wide aperture zoom. At 17mm the corners of the frame are 1.39 stops darker than the image centre, and at 55mm, the corners are 1.08 stops darker. Visually uniform illumination is achieved at f/5.6 throughout the zoom range.

Distortion at either end of the zoom is a little on the strong side too. At 17mm 3.56% barrel distortion is present and at 55mm this is replaced with 1.21% pincushion distortion. Luckily the distortion pattern is uniform across the frame at either end of the zoom range, which should make applying corrections in image editing software relatively easy to apply.

A deep petal shaped hood that encloses the front element as it extends during zooming is supplied, which does an excellent job of shielding the front element from extraneous light that may cause issues with flare. Even without the hood, flare is rarely much of an issue. Shooting with the sun in the frame can occasionally cause issues, but contrast holds up well, even when shooting into the light.

Nikon AF-S DX 17-55mm f/2.8G Sample Photos


Value for Money

The high price tag may be off-putting for many, especially as most third party manufacturers offer lenses covering a similar range, sometimes including optical stabilisation too. None of the third party equivalents offer build quality of the same level found on this lens, which may sway your decision in one way or another, depending on how the lens will be used and what punishment it may have to cope with.

Sigma offer a 17-50mm f/2.8 DC OS HSM lens, which is 5mm shorter at the telephoto end and lack full time manual focus override, but adds optical stabilisation and costs around £490.

Tamron currently offer two lenses covering a 17-50mm range with a constant f/2.8 aperture. Neither lens has a silent focusing motor, or full time manual focus override. They are both significantly cheaper than the Nikon lens though, with the more basic lens of the two costing around £290. A higher priced version is available, which also offer optical stabilisation and costs around £365.

Finally, Tokina offer a 16-50mm f/2.8 lens (now discontinued), which costs around £705. This lens features build quality not that far off that found on the Nikon, and is one millimetre wider. However, it does lack a silent focusing motor and full time manual focus override.

Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S DX Nikkor Verdict

If you require professional build, including weather sealing and fast autofocus with full time manual override on your f/2.8 standard zoom lens, then you need not look any further than this Nikon optic.
The sharpness it delivers in the centre from maximum aperture is excellent. It is by no means a perfect lens though. Levels of Chromatic Aberrations are quite high towards the edges of the frame and distortion is a little on the high side at either end of the zoom range.

The Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G ED-IF DX lens has very good sharpness in the centr and tank-like build quality.

Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S DX Nikkor Pros

Very good sharpness in the centre at f/2.8
Excellent across the frame when stopped down
Tank-like build quality
Fast autofocus
Low falloff for a f/2.8 zoom

Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S DX Nikkor Cons

High CA levels
Not as sharp towards the edges of the frame at f/2.8
Expensive

FEATURES  
HANDLING  
PERFORMANCE  
VALUE FOR MONEY  
OVERALL  

Nikon AF-S DX 17-55mm f/2.8G Specifications

ManufacturerNikon
General
Lens Mounts
  • Nikon AF-S DX G
Lens
Focal Length17mm - 55mm
Angle of View0 - 104
Max Aperturef/2.8
Min Aperturef/22
Filter Size77mm
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingNo Data
Focusing
Min Focus36cm
StabilisedNo
Construction
Blades9
Elements14
Groups10
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data
Dimensions
Weight755g
Height110.5mm

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